A study published in Global Change Biology claims that the quality of fresh water is beginning to diminish in lower elevation forests, and that climate change is to blame.

The director of the Institute for the Environment, and distinguished professor of geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Lawrence E. Band, states that the lower elevated watersheds are becoming greatly stressed due to the recent frequency of droughts in those areas. “If we become more dependent on upper elevation catchments for our water supplies,” Band warns, “they become much more valuable.”

This study has been carried out by researchers from UNC, the University of Minnesota, the University of Georgia, and the U.S. Forest Service. The research is being conducted in the Southern Appalachian Mountains near the border of North Carolina and Georgia. Through studying the leaf-fall data of the low elevation areas and researching the diverse ecosystem of the area, these researchers have concluded that droughts brought on through drastic climate change is vastly affecting the availability of high-quality fresh water.

Chelcy Miniat of the US Forest Service and member of the research team states, “Water quality and quantity are two ecosystem services that are derived from forests. It is important to understand what affects these services, especially in the face of climate change and increasing U.S. population.”